WASHINGTON– President Bush signed the fiscal 2009 defense budget into law today, authorizing a $512 billion base to support military readiness, as well as $66 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The law also authorizes a 3.9 percent pay raise for servicemembers, to take effect Jan. 1. This represents a one-half-percent increase over Bush’s initial request.

Bush signed the bill into law this morning without issuing a public statement, before leaving the White House to meet with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon.

The budget represents Bush’s priorities and sustains U.S. commitment to the war on terror, increasing ground combat capabilities, improving force readiness, developing combat capabilities needed to meet future threats, and improving the quality of life for servicemembers and their families, defense officials said.

It “provides the resources necessary to maintain an agile, highly trained and lethal fighting force, increase Army and Marine Corps end strength and sustain the United States’ technological advantage over current and potential enemies,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said as Bush announced the budget request in February.

The 2009 budget provides more than $20 billion to grow the force and provide the equipment, training and facilities these troops will need. The new budget will fund efforts to increase the active Army to 547,400 soldiers and the Marine Corps’ strength to 202,000. It also includes continued funding for the Army’s transformation from a division-centric force to a more flexible modular force with increased mobility and combat power.

The new budget will strengthen the National Guard and reserves, providing $49 billion to recruit, train, equip and sustain units that provide critical military capabilities both at home and abroad.

It also provides funds needed to recapitalize aging aircraft fleets, providing $17.3 billion to modernize tactical fleets and develop and procure fighter aircraft for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

Quality-of-life issues play prominently in the new budget. In addition to the pay raise, the law provides more than $41 billion for the military health system. It also bars some participants in the military’s health care network from raising their fees.

The law also provides funds to continue action on recommendations of the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors. Officials said the funds will ensure world-class health and rehabilitative care to warfighters who are wounded, ill or injured in service to the nation.

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